Investigators, detectives gather at homicide symposium

Updated: Jun. 18, 2012 at 2:46 PM CDT
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New Orleans, La. - Homicide investigators from around the world are meeting in New Orleans this week to discuss new techniques.

It is the latest laser technology in crime scene reconstruction.

Tony Grissim's Leica system takes 35 million images in 90 seconds to help investigators solve a crime and present strong visual images to the jury.

"It's a 3D laser scanner that you take to the crime scene. If you have multiple bullet holes, you can identify where the shooter was," says Grissim.

It's just one of a myriad of new, and not so new technologies being displayed to scores of homicide detectives from 21 different countries at the downtown Sheraton.

The new methods are of particular interest in New Orleans which leads the nation in murders, and where another one happened just blocks away Monday morning on N. Peters.

Despite some of the new technologies, veteran investigators say there is still no substitute for some of the old methods, but they say they should work hand in hand with some of the newer ones.

"A lot of younger folks are coming in and are used to computers, but the key is still hard work and the interviewing processes, " says William Hagmaier with the International Homicide Investigators Association.

Despite demand for new "CSI" like technology, the over-reliance on such techniques and a new federal focus on terrorism could be causing homicide investigations to suffer.

"Even with DNA, the clearance rate has fallen to 61 percent," said Hagmaier.

That's down by nearly 20 percent.

Veteran investigators say there's still no substitute for what they call "good old fashioned shoe leather," visiting crime scenes, interviewing witnesses, interacting with victims; skills that are lacking in younger investigators.

But technology can often make a difference, especially in court.

"Because of the CST effect, jurors want to make sure investigators are using the best technology," said Grissim.

Homicide investigators say the fight against terrorism may be causing the murder solve rate to drop nationwide.

They say many experienced officers are leaving police departments to take more lucrative jobs in the Department of Homeland Security.